Functional Q&ACan your synthetic clothing be the cause of your health challenges?

Can your synthetic clothing be the cause of your health challenges?

Fluorescent pink, neon green, turquoise blue and bright orange are some of the colours that you see in sports wear today, made from what is known as dri fit fabric and supposed to keep you sweat free and cool through your workout. As with most fads, you can see this spreading like venom through society, as more and more people are switching from traditional cottons and other natural fabrics to this new age fabric with many promises. I’m sorry if this is going to make you angry or bothered, but seeing more and more people, sadly even students of yoga, switching to this clothing, is making me sad.

The more awareness that is created around this, the better! The fact is even those who appear to be well informed about health and who are doing everything they possibly can with their food choices, are still using these synthetic clothes, and I’m stumped over whether this choice is for the colours, convenience or contours they create!

It probably does stick to your skin like a glove emphasising your figure, it probably does make you feel your sweat less, it probably does come in attractive colours that complement various people and it probably is the coolest sports wear today. So why do you need to know more about this? Please take a moment to read through till the end, as this can be a major root cause for many of your symptoms and diagnoses. 

These fabrics are polyester  that moves sweat away from the body and to the fabric surface, where it evaporates. There are multiple questionable associations around these fabrics and it’s important that we go through them one by one.

Firstly, in 2015, the firm of Jones & Swanson represented and reported a case of a young boy who was wearing shorts made of this fabric, who was established to be standing quite far away from a campfire, when in fact his shorts sparked, ignited and when he tried to roll on the ground, as we are all taught to, his hands caught fire as well. His cotton socks were untouched by the flames. His parents were sure it was related to his clothes, and claimed the company producing the fabric did not even warn consumers that it was flammable. His friends were horrified as his shorts melted and dripped molten dri fit on his shins! While the case might still be ongoing, it did give people the thought for caution. In fact, the oldest advice in the words of our grandparents when it came to firecrackers has always been to wear only cottons. Yes, we can go on to say that we will not be near a fire during our workouts, but this is just one point of concern. 

Concern over pthalates in dri fit sportswear

What is of bigger concern today, given that more and more people are wearing dri fit sports wear, is that more and more public health advocates are showing concern over the connection between these fabrics and various dangerous health conditions including endocrine disruption, cancer, and damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system.

Testing done across multiple mega sports brands have found high levels of pthalates in these fabrics. Pthalates are a group of industrial chemicals used across multiple industries. Pthalates can enter your body through your breath, through food, and through touch via your skin. Pthalates can damage your fatty acids, can cause zinc deficiency, damages your pancreas, affects your liver’s ability to detoxify, disrupts multiple endocrine function, and can cause high cholesterol and yet not allow your body to make use of the cholesterol in a good way for your brain. Studies also listed pthalates as one of the causes for affecting your child’s brain development. Everything from Autism to ADHD has been linked to pthalates. More and more mega sports brands are flooding the world with dri fit wear made for kids. This might be attractive now, but it is setting the stage for multiple challenging conditions in the future.

Recent research has shown that every woman exposed to pthalates in pregnancy lowered her child’s IQ by 7 points. and just one point lower is the difference between a grade A and C! Just imagine!! If you do plan to have a baby, always work with a Functional Medicine Practitioner or a Functional Nutritionist to detoxify yourself and get your system cleaned up before you even think of getting pregnant. And before you do all that, first get rid of all the pthalates, beginning with these clothes!

In a much older publication in 2012, by The European Consumer Organisation, football jerseys of nine countries was tested. It was found across all of them, there were carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting compounds. While companies might try and prove otherwise, the study also pointed out that these dri fit clothing fabrics were particularly harmful in sportswear, since sweating and abration could cause these toxic compounds to enter the human body. Let’s not even go into the area of how many of the chemicals and dyes used in this industry is even truly regulated.

Friction with your skin can cause toxic compounds from dri fit sportswear to enter your body

Adding all of this together, most people today have challenges with their liver and their ability to detoxify. This could be genetic but it could also be because your liver is just tired of cleaning up all the mess that you put into your body.

Most of these dri fit sportswear contain Dimethylformamide or DMF which is used in manufacturing this fabric is known to cause liver damage. Dri fit clothes, especially worn everyday and used during exercise, where there is sweating and there is abration or friction between your skin and the fabric, is going to make you absorb the toxic compounds from polyester, pthalates, dyes and much more. This is going to overload your liver, and in turn impact everything from your hormones to your brain. 

Is that colourful contoured dri fit clothing worth taking a chance on something as precious as your body and your brain? I have dear friends who only wear these brightly coloured pieces of clothing to work out in, and they have multiple symptoms of inflammation, ranging from autoimmune conditions to recurrent inflammatory flares in specific area of their body, usually in their most vulnerable systems. Is that piece of clothing worth all that pain? It’s no small concern. It’s a major concern and it’s time you seeked out the organic and natural fibres. If not to help the world, but if only to help yourself!

Would you rather skip waiting for studies to come out after a decade, when drastic damage has been done, and just switch to age old cottons or linens? After all, in todays’ world nothing speaks style better than cotton!


  • wolf max

    excellent writeup. i added you to a shortlist of a dozen references incl military and welders who wont wear this for its high heat-risk of plastics melting/fusing into skin. Most of these dri fit sportswear contain Dimethylformamide or DMF (used in manufacturing this fabric) which is known to cause liver damage.

    • Deepa Kannan

      Thank Wolf. I've approved your edited comment and appreciate you taking the time to do this.

  • Shivani

    Very well defined and much needed. Do check out products at We at Deivee have been working on educating the customers and consumers on similar lines.

  • Candice

    Thank you for this article. I developed thyroid disease years ago, and never would have linked it to my clothing or common materials in my everyday life. Now I am convinced materials like polyester and chemicals like Pthalates are the culprits. Now I feel especially lethargic when I where my synthetic activewear. I started noticing a pattern, and am making big changes in my wardrobe, and working to detoxify my children's toys and trying to remove plastic food storage from our house. I try to wear and dress my family in organic cotton and other natural fibers as much as possible. I'm starting my own sustainable clothing line called featuring natural fibers, designed for maternity and nursing moms. We have a long way to go, plastics and harmful byproducts are deeply embedded in everyday life.

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Book Acquisition by HarperCollins India

Here’s that exciting news I spoke about to coincide with the one year anniversary of The Sleep Whisperer Podcast! Writing a book and becoming part of that magical group of authors is a dream!

Three years ago I wrote a book which I titled Sleep Whisperer, looking at sleep from a very in depth perspective, and tying together the cutting-edge science of functional medicine and eastern ancient wisdom. The story of how I wrote that book is indeed magical and a mixture of spiritual guidance and astrology(by my spiritual guide and mentor Shyam @himalayan.yogi ). It’s also been a lot of sacrifice and hard work during times that were stressful, challenging and testing in all ways.

The journey of the book from concept to acquisition is also a magical path which I will share much later. For now, I’m just humbled, grateful and quite simply excited to announce that the book has been acquired by Sonal Nerurkar @sonal_nerurkar of @harpercollinsin HarperCollins India! Sonal’s faith in the book has been unwavering and I’ll forever be grateful for it. I can’t wait for the final book release next year!

None of this would be possible without the trust, hard work, dedication and patience of my most beautifully warm literary agent Jayapriya Vasudevan @jayapriyavasudevan of Jacaranda Literary Agency. I cannot put into words what her belief in the book and being my warrior for it means to me.

I’m also deeply grateful for the dear colleagues and mentors who have made contributions to the book. That is a surprise for later! You can follow everything about the sleep podcast and book at @mysleepwhisperer

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